Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Map On My Windshield

Happy New Year!  I'm starting out right in 2013, writing on my blog for the first time since November. The holiday season is just too busy!  I suppose one of my New Year's Resolutions should be to simplify Christmas, but I do not make New Year's Resolutions; I don't need any more reasons to fail.

But I have learned much this past year, which I plan on using to make 2013 a much, much better time for me and my family.  The year 2012 was rough, and at times I wanted to give up.  Ending it was symbolic for me as new doors are opening and fresh possibilities are waiting.  As always, while searching for signs of where I should go from here, I have several plans to travel, meet people, and learn.

When I travel, I seek people who have stories to tell.  Everyone, everywhere, has a reason for why they are in a certain place at a certain time.  Sometimes the reasons are exciting and fun, sometimes heartwarming, and once in a while the story is a sad one.  But the best stories have a little bit of everything.

In October, after my dear friend Debbie and I had spent most of our camping trip lost in the wilderness, we decided to visit the Upper Tahquamenon Falls on her last full day before going home.  As we walked the path back after exploring the falls, my dog Rooney attracted a lot of attention, like he always does.  A woman approached us to greet Rooney, and as we exchanged pleasantries, she mentioned she was from Toronto, Canada.  We asked what brought her here, and she replied,

"The map on my windshield."


This is her story.

Betty didn't get along well with her mother for many years, but had recently reconciled with her and the two became the best of companions.  Taking her mother everywhere, Betty learned to appreciate a mature, honest relationship while discovering that her mom was a fascinating person.  They traveled extensively, but had never been to Michigan, so last summer they planned a trip to cross the bridge into Detroit, and drive north to the wine country of the Leelanau peninsula.  Betty had heard great things about the area, and she and her mom were very excited.

Then Betty's mom died peacefully one night in her sleep.  Devastated at the loss, so soon after Betty had come to a wonderful relationship with her mother, she ultimately decided to go ahead with the trip to Michigan.  She felt her mom would have wanted that.

Before she left, Betty went to dinner alone one night at a fancy restaurant.  There, she met a man.  He was very nice, and handsome, and they talked about life and dreams and plans.  Just when Betty thought this might be a man she could spend time with, his son arrived, and the man left.  But not before Betty had told him of her plans for the trip to Michigan.

She dined alone, then left the restaurant to go home to an empty house.  When Betty got to her car, there was a piece of paper on her windshield.  It was a crudely drawn map, with instructions to drive north and cross into Michigan to Sault St. Marie, in the Upper Peninsula.  From there, the instructions gave her many options of which places were a "must-see" in the U.P., where to stay, and so on.

The map was signed by her pre-dinner companion.  How he knew which car was hers, Betty did not understand.  But she took his advice, changed her plans, and a week later drove to the U.P.  She told us of an incredible journey, seeing places she had never dreamed could be so beautiful and meeting some lovely people.  She said it ended up being the trip of a lifetime, and even though she was alone, she felt her mother with her.  The map on Betty's windshield changed her life, gave her the strength to go on, and introduced her to the idea that she could go anywhere, see anything, be anyone.  It freed Betty, for the first time in her life.

I wish someone would put a map on my windshield.  I wish a stranger would tell me where to go and what to do once I arrived, because I've been trying to figure that out for a year now.

Courtesy Google Images
If I think about it, the map is on my windshield, I just can't quite see it clearly yet.  All these months,  there have been signs pointing me in a new direction.  I've just been too caught up in self pity to recognize the signs.  Time really does heal, though, and pity is turning to hope, despair is fading and excitement is building.  Like Betty, I can also now be free to become whoever I want to be.  I don't have to be defined by the job I lost, or the friends who faded away during my time of strife.  I can become someone better, someone who is passionate about life and eager to set goals.  I can finally, for the first time, be in control of the direction I take.  I can put my own map on the windshield.

I won't be making any resolutions, but I will be strengthening my resolve.  I can be more than I've been.  I can do it with the love and support of my husband and kids, and Debbie, the people who have never stopped believing in me even when I did.  I can do it with the fond memory of meeting Betty, whose story affected me more than she will ever know, and whose strength encourages me to be stronger, smarter, kinder, and forgiving.  Ooops, those sound like resolutions, don't they?

Thank you all for listening to my stories this year.  I hope you have a spectacular New Year, as I plan to.  I promise to keep writing if you will keep reading, and probably even if you won't!  Stay tuned for some exciting news in the next few months as I forge ahead, drawing my map and enjoying a few detours.  It's going to be a fun ride!